Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage on Tuesday, marking the first time marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.
The vote was hailed as a watershed moment by gay rights activists. While same-sex unions have been legalized in six states and the District of Columbia by lawmakers or courts, voters had consistently rejected doing so. Voters in more than 30 states have approved constitutional bans on gay marriage.
"We made history and sent a powerful message that we have truly reached a tipping point on gay and lesbian civil rights in this country," said Brian Ellner, head of the pro-gay marriage group The Four. "By winning for the first time on marriage at the ballot box, we made clear what national polls already show — that Americans support fairness and equality for all families."
President Barack Obama this year became the first U.S. president to support gay marriage. His campaign endorsed the gay marriage measures in the three states.
In Maryland, the measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent. In Maine, voters supported the proposal 53 percent to 47 percent, with 75 percent of precincts reporting. And in Washington, a gay marriage measure was approved 52 percent to 48 percent.
Voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal that would have defined marriage solely as a heterosexual union. The constitutional amendment failed 48 percent to 52 percent.
In all four states, the marriage equality effort did better in urban areas and were less popular among rural voters.
The constitutionality of restricting marriage to unions between a man and a woman is widely expected to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court soon.
James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, called the votes a "watershed moment" for gay and lesbian families.
"Not long ago, marriage for same-sex couples was unimaginable," he said. "In a remarkably short time, we have seen courts start to rule in favor of the freedom to marry, then legislatures affirm it, and now the people vote for it as well."
OPPONENTS SAY OUTSPENT
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage - the leading group opposing same-sex marriage - said those favoring so-called traditional marriage had been outspent by a margin of at least 4 to 1.
"Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case," Brown said in a statement. "Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states."
In Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut, laws followed court rulings that same-sex couples could not be denied marriage rights. Legislatures approved the change in Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.
Before this year, ballot initiatives banning the legal recognition of same-sex marriage had succeeded in 31 states, and no state had ever approved same-sex marriage by popular vote.
Maine voters rejected gay marriage in a referendum in 2009 by 53 to 47 percent. In Washington and Maryland, where state legislatures previously passed laws expanding marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, it was up to citizens to decide whether to let the laws stand.
"Over these past few weeks, Marylanders joined together to affirm that for a free and diverse people of many faiths - a people committed to religious freedom - the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all," Governor Martin O'Malley said in a statement.
On 32 consecutive occasions since the 1990s, voters in states across the country have approved ballot measures — either statutes or constitutional amendments — barring gay and lesbian couples from the right to marry.
That streak was broken — decisively — on Election Night 2012. Voters in Maine acted affirmatively to enact marriage rights for same-sex couples. In Maryland and Washington State, efforts to overturn marriage equality laws approved earlier this year were rejected. And in Minnesota, anti-gay forces were unable to muster the 50 percent of total votes cast to amend the State Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“Our huge, happy, and historic wave of wins last night signaled irrefutable momentum for the freedom to marry, with voters joining courts, legislatures, and the reelected president of the United States in moving the country toward the right side of history,” said Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry. “The anti-gay opposition kept moving the goalposts and had as their last talking point that we could not win a popular vote on the freedom to marry.”
Wolfson has worked on the marriage equality issue for the past two decades, and while at Lambda Legal was involved in the first serious gay marriage litigation — in the Hawaii state courts. Freedom to Marry invested roughly $7 million in the ballot fights in the four states this year.
The Human Rights Campaign, the Washington-based LGBT lobby group, invested more than $6 million in the marriage effort this year and said it recruited several thousand volunteers across the four ballot states. Speaking about the victory in Washington, the last of the four races to be called, HRC president Chad Griffin said, “This victory rounds out a landslide sweep of all four marriage ballot measures this November… This win is a sure sign that momentum is on our side, and with the growing majority of Americans supporting marriage equality, more states will soon join Washington in protecting all families.”
For the National Organization for Marriage, the leading group fighting equal marriage rights and other partnership recognition measures for same-sex couples, the four defeats were bitter medicine. In the wake of pro-equality rulings by state courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere, activists affiliated with NOM argued that the definition of marriage should not be left to unelected judges. When New York and other states moved to enact gay marriage through the legislative process, they similarly cried foul.
Now, the NOM agenda has been rejected by voters in four states from coast to coast and in the heartland as well. The group moved quickly to disqualify even those referees.
In a written statement, Brian S. Brown, NOM’s president, after voicing disappointment that “our endorsed candidate for president, Mitt Romney” lost, said, “Even though marriage significantly out-performed the GOP ticket in each of these very liberal, very Democratic states, we also came up just short of the finish line. But make no mistake: we are disappointed, but we are not defeated! We are fighting for a true and just cause — God’s institution of marriage… We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America. As our opponents built a huge financial advantage, the odds became even steeper.”
Freedom to Marry and HRC noted other positive signs for marriage equality in Tuesday’s results. In Iowa, right-wing forces failed in their effort to oust Justice David Wiggins, who joined the unanimous 2009 State Supreme Court gay marriage ruling. Two years ago, three other justices had been removed by voters. Democrats in Iowa also retained control of the State Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has been an unshakable firewall against efforts to put an anti-marriage amendment on the ballot.
New Hampshire, where an effort to repeal that state’s 2009 marriage equality law failed earlier this year, elected a pro-marriage equality Democrat, Maggie Hassan, to succeed Democratic Governor John Lynch, who signed that law. Hassan defeated a Republican who is opposed to that law.
By a margin of nearly four percent, voters approved the marriage equality law signed by Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley earlier this year and later “referred” to voters after anti-gay forces mobilized in opposition.
The measure was approved in Baltimore, its suburbs, and the nearby suburbs of Washington, DC, but rejected in most other counties –– in western Maryland and on the state’s eastern shore. Marriage equality polled best (at nearly 66 percent) in affluent Montgomery County, adjacent to DC, in neighboring Howard County, and in Baltimore City, where it polled at just under 57 percent. The measure’s success in Baltimore and Prince George County near Washington, both heavily African-American areas, suggests that the law’s advocates succeeded in addressing concerns in the black community that opponents of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008 fell short on.
Defense of the marriage equality law was led by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, founded by O’Malley, HRC, Equality Maryland, 1199 Service Employees International Union, the NAACP of Baltimore, and the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Josh Levin, who led the campaign, said, “This victory would not have been possible without the unparalleled leadership of Governor O’Malley, resolve of the LGBT caucus in the Legislature, and the full-court press by the Human Rights Campaign, which has been here day in and day out for more than a year working for full equality.”
The group raised $6 million.
In 2009, anti-gay forces succeeded in having the marriage equality law enacted that year put before the voters in November. After a hard-fought contest, in which some polls showed gay advocates leading, the bill was repealed 53-47 percent. On Tuesday, the marriage equality issue was turned on its head on the initiative of gay advocates, with the 2009 voter repeal effectively overturned, with an estimated 54-46 percent margin. Seven of the state’s 16 counties approved equal marriage rights, with an eighth county essentially tied. Two-thirds of the voters in Cumberland County, home to Portland, the state’s largest city, voted yes, but the issue polled well in coastal counties from the New Hampshire border northeast to Ellsworth.
The pro-equality Mainers United for Marriage was a coalition that claimed 200 partners, including HRC and Freedom to Marry, and thousands of volunteers.
In a written statement, its campaign manager, Matt McTighe said, “Three years ago, Maine made history as the first state to pass marriage through a state legislature and have it signed into law by the governor. Maine made history again this year when we became the first state to bring a citizen’s initiative to voters in support of the freedom to marry.” He added, “Tonight, here in Maine, we proved that voters can change their hearts and minds if we tell our stories and give our fellow citizens a personal connection to the countless families whose lives are impacted by this debate.”
By a nearly identical margin as in Maryland, voters in Washington State approved a gay marriage law signed earlier this year by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire. Only six of the state’s 39 counties approved the law, but they were all in the populous northwestern area surrounding Seattle. Seattle’s King County and Jefferson County to its west both gave the measure more than 63 percent of their votes.
Washington United for Marriage, a coalition effort like Maryland’s that included HRC and Freedom to Marry, raised more than $12 million, the most of any state where marriage was contested this year. According to the Seattle Times, that total was more than five times what anti-gay forces raised. WUFM noted that its money came from 27,000 donors, 80 percent of them from Washington State. The group said the campaign knocked on 100,000 doors in the final week before Election Day and made 200,000 phone calls on November 5 and 6.
“We made history in so many ways,” said Zach Silk, WUFM’s campaign manager. “Our volunteers were engaged, fired up, and delivered. There has never been a ballot campaign in Washington that had this kind of breath and depth, from field to fundraising.
The state of Minnesota already has a law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but in 2012, years after Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, as a state legislator, got the ball rolling, anti-gay activists managed to get the issue on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. That effort was defeated 51-48 percent on Election Day.
Ten of the state’s 87 counties voted to defeat the marriage ban, seven of them in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, as well as areas in and around Duluth and Rochester. More than 60 percent of residents in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, and Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul, voted no.
“This campaign has changed the course of politics in our state forever,” said Richard Carlbom, who led the effort for Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition effort like that built in the other three ballot states. “Over the course of the last year and a half, we’ve sparked an honest, statewide conversation about why marriage matters and who should have the freedom to participate in it. Today, Minnesotans voted in favor of love, freedom, and fairness — because that’s what this state is about.”
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With marriage equality passing in three states and Minnesota rejecting a ban against it, this could have far-reaching impact in terms of decisions made by the Supreme Court. Specifically, it makes it easier for justices to back it due to social movement moving in favor of marriage equality:
After victories for same-sex marriage initiatives in Maryland, Maine and Washington state this week, the two sides in the national debate over gay marriage are positioning for advantage as the issue moves toward the U.S. Supreme Court.
The votes came two weeks before the Supreme Court justices are to meet, on November 20, to decide whether to review six gay rights cases that have been brought before the court.
Four of the cases test the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states or foreign countries where they are allowed. Another seeks approval for Proposition 8, a 2008 measure that outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The sixth case concerns gay rights in Arizona.
A critical question for the Supreme Court is how much political clout gays and lesbians have - and that's where Tuesday's votes could come into play.
Under the legal analysis that applies to equal protection challenges, laws that discriminate against politically powerless groups receive greater scrutiny from the court. Some of the lower courts in the current cases found that gays and lesbians are a disadvantaged group that qualifies for more rigorous protection.
Opponents of same-sex marriage are now arguing that Tuesday's voting results, which brought to nine the number of states that allow same-sex couples to wed, show that gays and lesbians have plenty of political power.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said this argument may appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote between the court's liberal and conservative camps.
"Kennedy will look at this and think, why create a new culture war and bypass the democratic process to impose gay marriage on the country when this is being worked out on a state-by-state basis?" Brown said.
Finding either the Defense of Marriage Act or California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional would be the equivalent of imposing gay marriage on the populace, Brown said.
But lawyers who have challenged DOMA say Tuesday's ballots could have the opposite effect, helping to convince the justices that gay marriage's time has come.
Historically, the Supreme Court has provided a single national framework on social issues like same-sex marriage, said James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. But it generally does so only after much of the country has reached a consensus, said Esseks, who helped bring one of the challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act.
In 1967 the court ruled that Virginia could no longer ban interracial marriage, reversing a ruling that had stood since 1883, after several states repealed their anti-miscegenation laws. And in 2003 the court found that Texas could not ban sodomy, noting that the number of states with laws banning homosexual conduct had dropped from 25 to 13 since it had made the opposite finding in 1986.
"Every time it becomes clear marriage equality is more accepted and popular, that helps us in the Supreme Court in some hard-to-quantify way," said Paul Smith, another lawyer who represents people who are challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.
Supporters of gay rights and some academics also note that more than 30 states have passed laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, which they say shows that gays and lesbians still need special protection from the courts.
"The test for whether the court applies extra careful review does not hinge on whether a few ballot measures pass in favor of gay people's equality," said Suzanne Goldberg, a professor at Columbia Law School. Rather, it's a much more far-reaching inquiry into systemic discrimination and underrepresentation, she said.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Supreme Court is almost certain to take up at least one of the Defense of Marriage Act cases before it.
Federal appeals courts in New York and Massachusetts have already found the 1996 federal law unconstitutional, putting pressure on the Supreme Court to create a national standard.
"The court can't live in a world where the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional in the Northeast and constitutional everywhere else," the ACLU's Esseks said.
This is especially true after Tuesday's votes, because with more states allowing same-sex marriage, more people are potentially adversely affected by the Defense of Marriage Act, said Arthur Leonard, a professor at New York Law School.
"It becomes much more urgent to get an answer whether the federal government can continue to refuse to recognize same-sex marriage," he said.
Legal experts said Tuesday's ballot results were unlikely to influence the Supreme Court's actions as it deliberates on whether to review Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage. While voters in the three states on Tuesday voted to approve gay marriage, California voters took the exact opposite action when they approved Proposition 8 just four years ago.
A sixth case before the Supreme Court challenges an Arizona law that limits healthcare benefits to state employees' spouses and dependents, excluding their domestic partners.
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With marriage equality having passed in three states, the push is on to legalize equality in several more. Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, among other states, are looking likely to see a major push on marriage equality within the next few years, and as early as spring next year:
For years, foes of same-sex marriage had a potent talking point: They’d won every time the issue went to a popular vote. That winning streak has now been shattered in a multi-state electoral sweep by gay marriage supporters — a historic tipping point likely to influence other states and possibly even the Supreme Court.
“It’s an astounding day,” said Kevin Cathcart of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, recalling that in 2004 alone the gay-marriage movement went 0-13 in statewide elections and was 0-32 overall since 1998.
In Tuesday’s voting, however, Maine and Maryland became the first states ever to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Washington state seemed poised to follow suit, although slow ballot-counting there continued Wednesday. And in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposal to place a ban on gay-marriage in the state constitution, a step taken in past elections in 30 other states.
“The anti-gay opposition kept moving the goal posts and had as their last talking point that we could not win a popular vote,” said Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. “Last night, voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and, all signs suggest, Washington proved them wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.”
Heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states and the District of Columbia, in each case due to legislation or court orders rather than popular vote.
Activists said Tuesday’s results will likely spur pushes for same-sex marriage in states that already have established civil unions for gay couples — including Illinois, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Delaware.
Democratic takeovers of both legislative chambers in Colorado and Minnesota may also prompt moves there to extend legal recognition to same-sex couples. In each state, the Democratic governors, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, would support such efforts.
In Minnesota, state Sen. Scott Dibble, who is openly gay, is among several Democratic lawmakers uncertain if an immediate push for gay marriage makes political sense. But Dibble, who is 47, said of himself and his partner: “We’ll be married in Minnesota in our lifetime.”
Whatever happens at the statehouse level, the U.S. Supreme Court is also likely to become a pivotal battleground in the next phase of the gay-marriage debate.
The justices are expected to confront same-sex marriage in some form during the current term.
Several pending cases challenge a provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that deprives same-sex couples of federal benefits available to heterosexual couples. A separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California’s Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by courts in the nation’s largest state.
“The justices now know America is with us. American is ready,” said Brian Ellner, co-founder of a social-media initiative called TheFour.com that was active in the gay-marriage campaigns. He and other activists noted that nationwide polls prior to the election were showing, for the first time, that a majority of Americans now backed gay marriage.
James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, termed the referendum results “an indisputable watershed moment” that almost certainly would influence the Supreme Court.
“When making decisions on civil rights issues, the court follows the country, rather than leading,” he said. “They don’t make decisions in a complete public-opinion vacuum.”
He noted that if the high court struck down Prop 8, that would immediately add California — with its 37 million residents — to the list of states allowing same-sex marriage.
Had the four measures lost, said Evan Wolfson, justices might have been reluctant to wade in on the side of gay marriage. Now, he said, they could do so “knowing that their support will stand the test of time and, indeed, be true to where the American people already are.”
The chairman of the leading advocacy group opposing same-sex marriage, John Eastman of the National Organization for Marriage, said it was possible that the referendum results might nudge the high court toward a ruling favoring gay marriage. But Eastman said it also was possible the justices would decide to let the political process play out a bit longer at the state level before intervening.
The National Organization for Marriage’s president, Brian Brown, expressed disappointment at the unprecedented losses for gay marriage opponents, who were outspent by at least 3-to-1 in the four referendum states — all of them won easily by President Barack Obama..
The results “reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states,” Brown said. “Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case.”
For the gay-rights movement, the celebration extended far beyond the groundbreaking ballot measures.
In Wisconsin, veteran congresswoman Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. At least five other openly gay Democrats were elected to House seats, while Kyrsten Sinema — vying to be the first openly bisexual member of Congress — was locked in a too-close-to-call race in Arizona.
In Iowa, gay-marriage opponents failed on two counts. They lost a bid to oust one of the state Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage in 2009, and they were unable to take control of the state Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Michael Gronstal has blocked a proposed amendment to overturn that ruling.
More broadly, gay-rights leaders celebrated the re-election of Obama, who had frustrated them early in his term with his sometimes cautious stances. Over the past two years, he’s become a hero of the movement — playing a key role last year in enabling gays to serve openly in the military and this year becoming the first sitting president to endorse same sex-marriage.
Among the next agenda items at the federal level is the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would protect gays and transgender people from workplace discrimination.
The gay-rights momentum even extended overseas. Spain’s top court upheld the legality of the country’s gay marriage law on Tuesday, and French President Francois Hollande’s Cabinet was pushing ahead Wednesday with a controversial bill that could see gay marriage legalized early next year.
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Another great thing about Tuesday night is that in New York, New Hampshire and Iowa, where marriage equality is legal, legislative chambers flipped from GOP control to Democratic control, or remained in Democratic control. That means those states are safe from any legislative push to repeal marriage equality laws in future years!
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Marriage equality wasn't the only historic outcome for the LGBT community on Tuesday. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin defeated her Republican challenger Tommy Thompson to become the first ever openly gay/lesbian senator!
Tammy Baldwin made history Tuesday night -- twice. She became the first openly gay politician, and first Wisconsin woman, elected to the U.S. Senate.
The seven-term Democratic congresswoman edged past former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in a win that advocacy groups hailed as a significant stride toward bringing diversity to the Senate.
Baldwin said she ran "to make a difference" and not to make history. But she said she hopes the Senate will be more reflective of America and the "life experience" of women.
"Having a seat at the table matters and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America. We're certainly not there yet, but this will be a change that moves us forward," she told CNN.
"People ... see our country and our states moving toward full equality in many respects," Baldwin said. "When you have legislative bodies that look more like America, that happens."
Baldwin was one of many successful gay and lesbian candidates in local and state races this election cycle, which also included her successor in her legislative district in Madison, state Rep. Mark Pocan. At least 118 gay and lesbian candidates won their races as of Wednesday, according to political action committee Victory Fund, which supports gay and lesbian candidates.
Political commentator Sally Kohn was ecstatic.
"This is a big day for gay women in America, and really, for all communities who aren't the typical straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress," she said.
There has never been an openly gay or lesbian member of the U.S. Senate, according to several LGBT advocacy groups. Baldwin is one of four openly gay House members of the 112 U.S. Congress, along with fellow Democrats Barney Frank of Massachusetts, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jared Polis of Colorado.
"For the LGBT person growing up in Wisconsin or anywhere across the country, seeing an openly gay woman who is able to rise up to become a senator in the U.S. Congress is an incredible role model," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Though Baldwin's sexual orientation makes her victory notable, it rarely came up during the campaign, unless it was called a nonissue. The race pitted Thompson's "conservative leadership" platform against Baldwin's progressive agenda. Thompson, a four-time governor and secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush, said he returned to politics to make America a better place for his grandchildren.
"I wanted to so much help lead back America," he said in his concession speech. "To be the country of growth and opportunity. To build America for future generations. I certainly didn't need the job. And I guess I'm not going to get it."
What started as a long shot for Baldwin eventually narrowed to a close finish, with the born-and-raised Wisconsinite capturing 51% of the vote, according to CNN projections.
"This campaign has been run on who's the most qualified candidate and who has the best vision for the state," Griffin said. "We're eager to have her move from one side of the Capitol to another and take a seat in the chamber as the first openly gay person."
To those watching the race, it was no surprise that Wisconsin, a state that approved a gay marriage ban six years ago, would send the first openly gay politician to the Senate. Baldwin has made no secret of her sexual orientation as she rose through local and state politics during the last two decades. When she was elected in 1998 to represent Wisconsin's second congressional district, she was the first out candidate to be elected to the chamber, said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, a political action committee that supported LGBT candidates including Baldwin this election.
"The electorate already knew what they needed to know about her, and they continued to elect her every step of the way," Wolfe said.
"She is a force with very deep roots in Wisconsin. She has a backbone of steel, but she's polite and compassionate, and people enjoy their interactions with her."
Born and raised in the Congressional district she has represented for the past decade, Baldwin's track record reflects a commitment to LGBT issues and diversity. As a Wisconsin representative, she was a co-founder and co-chairwoman of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, leading efforts to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other civil rights initiatives. She also led successful efforts in the House in 2009 to pass expanded hate crimes legislation and was the lead author of legislation to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
"Tammy has been a driving force because of her ability to tackle issues without having to use double-speak," Wolfe said. "Having someone like her in the Senate changes the tone and tenor of this discussion."
Others are hopeful that more women in Congress will change the discussion of policies affecting women and families. Women in the 112th Congress made up 17% of both the Senate and the House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
"A lot of research has shown that more women in leadership leads to better outcomes for the community," said Tiffany Dufu, president of The White House Project, which trains women for leadership.
"We know that women in political leadership reach across the aisle more often and are inclusive when it comes to taking constituents into consideration. They care deeply not just about the outcome, but the process," she said.
"For us, the biggest thing about Tammy Baldwin is her visibility. You can't be what you can't see."
Sean Patrick Maloney has defeated Congresswoman Nan Hayworth to become the first openly gay candidate elected to represent New York in Congress.
The Associated Press called the race for the Democrat shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to Capital Tonight. He challenged a first-term Republican incumbent who had shown some support for equality measures.
The highly competitive contest took place in the newly drawn 18th Congressional District in the Lower Hudson Valley, an area of mostly suburban counties north of New York City. While the race focused on the economy, it held the distinction of asking LGBT people to weigh the candidacy of one of their own versus a potential ally.
Both parties prioritized the race in their quest for control of Congress, and money from outside groups flooded the district. Recent polls gave Hayworth a slight edge, but the district became a bit more Democratic when the new lines were drawn, and many analysts considered the contest a toss up.
Maloney, a 46-year-old attorney, ran for attorney general in 2006, the first openly gay man to make such a statewide bid. He served as a top aide to President Bill Clinton and for New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. He is raising three children with his partner of 20 years, designer Randy Florke.
Hayworth, 52, is a retired ophthalmologist first elected to Congress in 2010. She is married to Scott Hayworth, a physician executive, and the couple has two grown sons. Their oldest son Will is gay, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The race turned on issues such as jobs and taxes against the backdrop of this election cycle’s overriding debate about the size and role of government. Maloney sought to portray Hayworth as a Tea Party extremist who wants to eliminate funding for Medicare and Planned Parenthood, while the incumbent branded the challenger as a “carpetbagger” from Manhattan who worked for two scandal-plagued gubernatorial administrations. Maloney moved to the new district this year after splitting time between the city and a country home in nearby Sullivan County for more than 16 years.
“We can’t wait for Sean to show his colleagues in the House his pride in his family, and his commitment to the people of New York’s 18th Congressional District,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which endorsed Maloney. “Sean has been a leader in New York, serving two governors and working hard to secure a more promising future for his children. He will also be a strong voice in Congress for fairness and equality.”
Those familiar with New York’s 18th Congressional District describe its LGBT community as small and integrated, with a suburban and rural character that differs from the urban neighborhoods more commonly associated with gay candidates. LGBT-specific issues were not a major topic of conversation in the campaign.
“The people in my district are a lot more concerned about why my opponent wants to end Medicare than who I love,” said Maloney in an interview with The Advocate before he was elected. “I’m not running as the gay candidate, but I’m not running away from it, either.”
Where LGBT issues are concerned, Maloney said his goal was “full equality under federal law." He said immediate priorities include repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, achieving marriage equality through the courts or other means, and passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act.
Maloney received endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. He also had the backing of President Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who led the successful push for marriage equality legislation in the state last year.
Hayworth counted endorsements from the Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud, and American Unity PAC, the group founded by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer to support pro-equality Republicans in House contests. She also received the endorsement of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who vetoed marriage equality legislation this year and supports civil unions.
Maloney brought the more complete LGBT record, but boosters for Hayworth pointed to her membership in the LGBT Equality Caucus, her support for the Employment Non-discrimination Act, four votes against amendments to affirm DOMA, and her lead sponsorship of the Tax Parity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, which would equalize tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners or other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries. Her supporters saw the potential to build bridges with the House Republicans needed to advance legislation.
“Sean Maloney is a credible candidate and has worked hard to advance the fight for equal rights, but Nan Hayworth is by far the best choice for Hudson Valley voters,” said Jeff Cook, senior advisor to American Unity PAC and resident of the district, prior to the vote. “Nan has stood up to fight against all four mean-spirited amendments aimed at denying same-sex couples federal recognition, is pushing to eliminate the tax penalty on domestic partnership benefits and end discrimination in the workplace and is one of three Republicans to join the Equality Caucus. She’s a thoughtful consensus-builder who helped found the Common Ground Caucus. And most important to average voters, she understands that out-of-control spending is placing our country’s future at risk and that Hudson Valley families are already over-taxed. American Unity PAC is proud to stand by Nan Hayworth.”
Support for DOMA repeal would seem like a natural step for Hayworth, who represents a state with a marriage equality law. New York is also home to one of the DOMA challenges upheld by a federal appeals court last month and currently pending a decision on review by the Supreme Court. However, the congresswoman has not expressed support for repeal, although she has indicated that she believes the New York state law is a settled matter. The Conservative Party of New York State, which backed Hayworth this year and in 2010, has vowed to deny its influential endorsement to candidates who endorse marriage equality.
Maloney said Hayworth’s failure to support DOMA repeal reinforced the already striking distinctions between them. He added that her campaign manager, Karl Brabenec, resigned his role as a marriage officiant last year rather than perform same-sex marriages.
“The bottom line is, on the most important issue of our time, marriage equality, she will not state a position on DOMA because she does not support marriage equality,” he said.
The Hayworth campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
New York also holds importance as the state where a Republican-led senate first passed a marriage equality bill. Advocates planned to send the message that pro-equality Republicans can survive, but Maloney dismissed any comparisons between Hayworth and the state lawmakers up for re-election Tuesday.
“They took a real chance with their careers. This is not that,” he said. “She has never taken a courageous vote or put herself on the line for the gay community. Period.”
Maloney said the choice could not be any clearer, on LGBT issues or otherwise.
“I think it’s borderline offensive to those of us who have fought for years on these issues, that joining a caucus or sending a letter or being a little less bad than the most hostile Republican Congress in our lifetime is considered some sort of achievement,” he said. “Do not count me among those who get excited about the things that this Republican Congress has done.”
Pennsylvania has officially elected its first openly gay state representative.
Brian Sims won a decisive victory in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia’s 182nd District back in April of 2012, and late Tuesday night, he announced on his Facebook page that he’d clinched his place in the House of Representatives.
Sims, a Center City attorney, didn’t face a Republican opponent in the November election, but an Independent could have stepped up and announced a bid for the seat.
“I’m honored by the support, humbled by all the hard work, and ready to take the Capitol by storm…a Progressive Storm! It’s going to be a long evening as we wait for the results of all the contested races around the Commonwealth, and the nation! I’m hopeful that when the dust settles, not only will I be joined by other out, LGBT state legislators in Pennsylvania, but hopefully dozens more in legislatures across the country, and our first ever out Senator!” Sims posted on Facebook Tuesday night. “Together, we have made history in Pennsylvania…THANK YOU!”
Riverside, California educator and GSA adviser Mark Takano has won his race against Republican opponent John Tavaglione for the newly-created 41st Congressional District, according to ABC7 Eyewitness News. The relection makes Takano the first openly LGBT person of color elected to Congress.
This election was a significant change from Takano’s first race in Riverside County nearly two decades ago, and it could be a sign of the times. “When I first ran for Congress in the 1990s, my background as an openly gay Asian was one of the focal points of the campaign, and in fact my opponent attacked me for it,” says Takano.
Outed during that contentious 1994 race, Takano’s opponents insinuated he had some sort of “homosexual agenda” and sent pink political mailers that questioned whether as a congressman Takano could represent the people of Riverside (a part of California’s right-leaning Inland Empire region) or would he really represent “San Francisco?”
“Times certainly have changed,” Takano said. “And in my current race not a single voter has asked me about being gay.”
While Inland Empire remains a bit right of center, Takano’s sexual orientation wasn't a factor in this race. As a candidate, Takano instead focused on what is critical to his constituents (more jobs, good companies, ample Medicare) in what many pundits called one of the most important races in the country.
New America Media reported that the Japanese-American educator’s race “is considered one that will determine which party controls the House for the next two years.” It’s a redistricted area that now skews slightly more Democratic than in the past.
Takano told New America, “Democrats need 25 seats and this is one of the critical, must-win seats. It’s very difficult to win without winning the 41st, which is where I am,” he noted. “I feel very strongly that the issues are with us. My effort is now painting a contrast between me and my opponent. I’m talking to Riversiders. It’s about common-sense Riverside values versus Washington extreme ideology. It’s common sense to be for middle-class tax cuts and tax cuts on small businesses, to be for not allowing Medicare to be turned into voucher care.”
Certainly Takano is glad his sexual orientation isn’t an issue this time around, but politics watchers can’t help but notice the timing of Takano’s triumph. For Asian Americans, he’s part of a record wave of candidates for Congress (25, of them three are Japanese Americans). And he’s among a record number of LGBT politicians running for Congress (eight in total). New York, in fact, elected its first Asian American woman to Congress yesterday.
Takano’s win comes at a time when LGBT organizations are working more closely than ever with other affinity organizations. The NLGJA joined Unity, a group previously only open to journalists of color. And the NGLTF, for example, joined other minority groups in demanding an end to stop-and-frisk police policies. Meanwhile, those communities came out nationally to support LGBT rights in numbers never before seen. When President Obama voiced support of marriage equality, the NAACP and The League of United Latin American Citizens and National Council of La Raza soon followed.
The alliances between LGBT folks and people of color has never been as strong as they are now, though Takano is quick to point out that there a relationship between gays and Asian Americans had already existed. The Japanese American Citizens League was the first non-LGBT organization to support marriage equality. In 2004, the group filed an amicus curiae with an ACLU lawsuit defending same-sex marriage in Oregon. And, as Takano reminds reporters, it was gay Congressman Barney Frank who got Congress to pass a resolution that would apologize to Japanese Americans, like his parents William and Nancy, who were interned during World War II.
Voters in Takano’s district have made history before. Riverside’s Dalip Singh Saund became the first Indian American and Sikh member of Congress in 1956. And Takano was right to believe that the community would do it again by working together on their shared issues.
“A broad coalition here of African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and white voters care more about issues such as bringing good employers and job opportunities to Riverside, in addition to protecting Medicare,” says Takano. “Now my being openly gay is more of an interesting part of my background rather than a genesis for attacks — it's a demonstration of how far our country has come in a short time. I think it's definitely true that we are seeing a shift in our electorate where communities of color and the LGBT community are coming together, not only on social issues like equality for all Americans, but more importantly economic issues.”
Location: Sleeping in the house of my latest jumpoff.
Re: LGBTQAP MTF posters and straight allies unite!
Arizona Democrat Krysten Sinema is close to officially defeating Republican Vernon Parker to become the openly openly atheist and first openly bisexual woman of the US House!
KYRSTEN SINEMA LEADS IN ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL RACE; WOULD BE FIRST BISEXUAL MEMBER OF CONGRESS
Kyrsten Sinema expressed increasing confidence about her prospects of winning the race for the 9th Congressional District in Arizona, telling a local news station Wednesday morning that, “It appears our lead is growing.”
"We knew it was going to be a close race," the Democratic former state lawmaker said in an interview with 3TV. "What we're really happy about it that we've been steadily ahead since the numbers started coming in and it appears that our lead is growing. So, we're optimistic about the next couple of days."
Sinema maintains a slim lead over Republican Vernon Parker. The race in Congressional District 9, a district with many independent voters that covers Phoenix, is the most competitive contest in the state, according to the Arizona Republic.
The outcome may not be finalized for days. Watch the new interview with Sinema below.
Both candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s newly formed ninth congressional district represent firsts. Vernon Parker, the Republican candidate and a former Bush appointee, was the first African-American to be mayor of Paradise Valley, Ariz., a city with a majority white population. And Kyrsten Sinema, the state senator who was previously elected three times to the state’s House of Representatives, could be the first openly bisexual member of the U.S. House.
Election for Sinema would be no small feat in the state that produced U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer, whose exceptionally conservative immigration policies have regularly made national news. In many ways, Sinema, who is also an open nontheist and was raised Mormon and attended Brigham Young University, is an anomaly in Arizona politics. But she’s ahead in some polls in the final stages of her race against Parker, though it’s one of Congress’s tightest races.
Sinema is one of eight openly LGBT candidates running for Congress, and LGBT rights have been hallmarks of Sinema’s time in office. In 2006 she cochaired Arizona Together, the campaign that defeated Proposition 107, which would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona. And in 2008 she led the campaign against the Proposition 102, a marriage equality ban that was ultimately approved by the voters. She’s been an outspoken advocate for public education and economic development, and an outspoken opponent of the state’s controversial immigration law and lax gun control.
“My number 1 priority is common sense, because we don’t see a lot of that in the state capitol,” she told The Advocate in 2011.
The most surprising aspect to Sinema’s congressional campaign thus far is that the smears against her for being openly bisexual were more pronounced in the primary race — and surprising because the alleged attacks in the primary came from Andrei Cherny, a fellow Democrat and former chair of the Arizona Democratic Party.
In a Washington Blade interview, Sinema took Cherny to task for “very, very, very dirty” campaign tactics, that she included telling potential supporters she’s unfit for office because of her sexual orientation and because she’s single.
“I got a call from some union folks…” Sinema said. “Apparently, [Cherny] had told some of them in interviews that I couldn’t win the election and that I shouldn’t get the endorsement because I’m openly bisexual and can’t win a general election.” She also accused Cherny and his wife, who have two children, of telling donors that Sinema is “not a family person.”
In a victory statement following her primary win, Sinema said, “Arizonans have heard a lot of negative attacks against me during this campaign, and we are going to hear a lot worse. You are going to hear things about me that aren’t true. This is what has happened to our politics, and this win-at-all-costs mentality is damaging our democracy. … Our campaign will be ready for the attacks. We will meet voters where they are and talk about my ideas to rebuild our middle class, and secure a real future for the next generation.”
Denis Dison, a Victory Fund spokesman, said the campaign tactics that Sinema says Cherny employws against her aren’t unusual in tight races involving LGBT candidates. “It’s something we’ve seen before in races as they’ve come down to the wire and our candidates are in a good position,” Dison told the Washington Blade.
“Unfortunately, even in Democratic primaries, you see people start to play this ‘sexual orientation’ card. It’s particularly unfortunate that this is happening in a primary in a party that is supposed to beyond this type of politicking. But you see it from time to time, and it’s unfortunate that it is apparently happening now in Kyrsten’s race.”
Jim Kolbe, a gay Republican former U.S. representative from Arizona, and Neil Giuliano, a gay former mayor of Tempe, Ariz., and former head of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, both dismissed the allegations, saying Cherny isn’t homophobic. Guiliano contributed to Cherny’s campaign.
Parker, for his part, hasn’t openly addressed issues related to Sinema’s acknowledged bisexuality. His campaign site does not list policy positions on marriage equality, the Defense of Marriage Act, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he did answer a Phoenix Arizona Election questionnaire in 2012 by saying “I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman” to the question “Do you support or oppose gay marriage? And should the federal government maintain or repeal the Defense of Marriage Act?”
Overshadowed by the wave of historic results that emerged from Tuesday’s election, including women taking the governor’s office as well as two congressional seats and making New Hampshire the first state with an all-female delegation, was another bit of history.
Stacie Laughton, a Democrat, became the first openly transgender lawmaker in the state.
“I believe that at this point, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community will hopefully be inspired,” Laughton said Wednesday. “My hope is that now maybe we’ll see more people in the community running, maybe for alderman. Maybe in the next election, we’ll have a senator.”
Laughton won one of three seats in the state House of Representatives in Ward 4, joining Democrats David Cote, no relation to the author, and Mary Gorman. She garnered 1,588, easily beating two Republican candidates.
Marla Brettschneider, a University of New Hampshire political science professor, said Laughton’s election is a remarkable moment in terms of the election itself and that it took until 2012 for a transgender person to crack the Statehouse.
“It’s very important,” Brettschneider said. “It’s a really historic moment for (Nashua) and New Hampshire and the nation to start to really reimagine what citizenship and leadership can look like.”
Gay and lesbian issues took steps forward in several state’s Tuesday.
Maine and Maryland voters made their states the first to pass legalized gay marriage by a popular vote.
Six other states allow gay marriage but that was enacted by courts or legislatures.
Voters in Minnesota defeated a constitutional measure that would have banned gay marriage.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin also became the nation’s first openly gay U.S. senator Tuesday, winning a competitive race in Wisconsin.
Before the election, Laughton, who serves as a Ward 4 selectman, said she’ll focus on issues facing the state rather than her identity.
She said advocating for the homeless and people with mental illness and physical disabilities and strengthening public schools will be her top priorities.
She said she also would like to work on legislation to make it easier for transgender people to be recognized in the state, including measures that would make it easier for group members to change their gender on state-issued IDs and being able to use the restroom of their choice.
“The state needs to be welcoming and affirming and sending that message that we will be welcoming and you won’t be discriminated against in New Hampshire,” Laughton said.
Laughton said that while her identifying as a woman may scare some, she hopes she will gain support.
“I hope that through this, there is more of a coming out from the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We are people, too, who still have talents and ideas. And I hope that people won’t be afraid to get into politics, or any other position, for that matter. I want the community to feel inspired.”
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a gay Denver democrat, was nominated as Speaker of the Colorado State House of Representatives on Thursday, The Denver Post reports. Ferrandino is the first openly LGBT legislator in Colorado history to preside over the chamber, and joins eight out LGBT lawmakers in the state's legislature. Ferrandino will accept the gavel on January 9, the first day of the 2013 legislative session.
"It's definitely very humbling," Ferrandino said, "and I'm excited to be able to get to work and try and pass good policy for the people of Colorado."
Ferrandino's election comes six months after the former Speaker, Republican Frank McNulty, staged a dramatic shutdown of the state House in order to kill a bipartisan civil unions bill sponsored by Ferrandino and out state Sen. Pat Steadman. With Ferrandino as Speaker, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and a governor who has been an outspoken advocate for civil unions, the twice-failed legislation is nearly certain to pass in the upcoming legislative session.
"Sen. Steadman and I have always said we are going to keep introducing [civil unions] until it passes," Ferrandino told The Advocate exclusively. "We'll definitely introduce it next year, and I think next year will be the year that it passes given the change in leadership. We have a majority in the House and Senate who will support the bill, and a leadership who will bring it up, unlike last year."
First on Ferrandino's agenda, however, are the issues echoed on the campaign trail leading to Tuesday's election. Ferrandino, who served as minority leader before Tuesday's election secured a 37-28 Democratic majority in the House, said his top priorities would be economic issues, jobs, and securing education funding for Colorado's children.
That's a particularly salient issue for Ferrandino who with his husband, Greg Wertsch, recently welcomed a baby girl into their lives — the new fathers are fostering the girl, with hopes to adopt her.
Ferrandino joins openly gay House speakers in California and Rhode Island, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund told The Post.
The impending shift in power in Salem has set up a potentially historic change in legislative leadership here in Oregon.
Democrats are poised to hold a 34-26 majority in Oregon’s House of Representatives, breaking the previous 30-30 tie, thanks to four victories by Democratic candidates in the Portland suburbs over Republican incumbents.
House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan’s (D-Coos Bay) successful pursuit of a State Senate seat has left House Democratic Leader Tina Kotek in position to become Oregon’s first openly-gay House speaker.
Kotek, who represents North Portland in the legislature, says she would be America’s first openly lesbian house speaker.
"I think anytime you have a first for a community that's looking for role models it's really important,” Kotek said. “So I know folks in the LGBT community are very excited. I think it says a lot about Oregon that we appreciate and respect diversity.”
To become House speaker, Kotek still needs to secure the backing of her Democratic colleagues when the new legislative session begins in January.
Asked when her sexual orientation would become irrelevant, Kotek said, “I think we're getting there. We have a president who supported marriage equality and got re-elected at the national level. Every year we seen I think, more of ‘it's not a big deal’, but until we're there having people in positions of leadership where young folks can look up to I think it's really important.”
But Kotek said Oregonians looking to across the Columbia River to see Referendum 74 passing in Washington state should not look to the Oregon Legislature to lead the charge on legalizing same-sex marriage.
"In Oregon we're a little different because we'd have to amend our Constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry,” Kotek said. “I think we're on track to do that and that could potentially be on the ballot in 2014.
“You could refer it to the voters, but it shouldn't be a legislative referral. It should be a referral that comes up from the people. Go out and collect those signatures, build the education and awareness on the topic, and then have the support you need when you go to the ballot."
Kotek said her priorities are education and job creation. And in her role representing North Portland, she plans to push for funding for the Columbia River Crossing bridge, adding she feels light rail is “an integral part” of the project.
Location: Sleeping in the house of my latest jumpoff.
Re: LGBTQIAP MTF posters and straight allies unite!
The Victory Fund is an LGBT organization that endorses and works to elect LGBT leaders into public office countrywide. In this election cycle, The Victory Fund endorsed a record 180 candidates. 121 of the endorsed candidates have been victorious thus far with two more potential victories. These wins include:
- The reelections of US House Reps. David Cicilline, Democrat from Rhode Island, and Jared Polis, Democrat from Colorado.
- Mark Pocan, elected in Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, winning the seat held previously by Tammy Baldwin, becoming the first gay candidate who will follow another gay member of Congress.
- 21 year old, Justin Chenette, Democrat from Maine, won his race to represent House District 134 in the Maine State Legislature and becomes the youngest out gay state representative in the US.
- Democrat Joe Saunders of Florida won his race to represent House District 49 in Florida's House of Representatives, to become the first openly gay candidate elected as a state representative.
- Josh Boschee, Democrat from North Dakota, was elected the state's first openly gay legislator.
- Stephen Skinner, Democrat from West Virginia, was elected the state's first openly gay legislator.
All in all, seven states gained their first or only openly LGBT state lawmaker this election cycle. The number of out legislators on Capitol Hill virtually doubled. Millions of pro-gay straight candidates won countrywide. This has been the most successful election cycle for the LGBT community is US history.
What happened Tuesday was a milestone election, and it makes me emotional, because it makes me see, and it makes all young gays growing up countrywide, that we can make it. That the United States of America is our America too.